Articles 24 min read

Loosening the Self View by Catherine Hayes

Leading in the moment to release fixed patterns and tune into greater possibility

Loosening the Self View

Preferred ways of functioning in organisations have historically driven performance through the power of the individual.  This is reflected in designing hierarchies, creating silos, encouraging individual performance practices that reward ego biased recipes for success.  In our consultancy work we are finding that leaders are discovering that these ways of operating are creating paralysis and disconnection within their organisations.  In the process of supporting them in working with their challenges, we are seeing a new way of leading emerging.  A practice that focuses on building and developing co-evolving relationships that generate interconnected eco-systems.  Cultivating environments that recognise the importance of different perspectives leaders are becoming more effective in their abilities to navigate ambiguity and solve complex problems.  Effective leaders of today, are moving from a bias towards positional power to practices of working with networks, creative teams and aligning strategic intent with relational ways of working.  One critical clue to working in a co-evolving relational way, is the shift in Self-View.  Working with greater humility and discipline to be more present in the moment, leaders can release the potential within their environments.  They can see through the patterned dynamics of how they have the propensity to unintentionally get in their own way and the effectiveness of others.  They actively seek ways of bringing peak performance to the present, as an alternative to the continuous habit of driving themselves and others to work harder.

In this paper we will show how this emerging leadership practice works as a mutually reinforcing cycle that can be shaped differently by a range of interventions.  Our intent is to link Buddhist philosophy with a range of different concepts, as a way of describing the complex territory that day-to-day organisational life tends to overlook.  In the first part of this paper we, illustrate what we term as a Fixed-Self, aspects which inform the unconscious dynamics of the Self that impact leadership behaviours.  In the second part of this paper we provide insights into how these principles can be applied to leadership practices in organisations.

We will look at how our Fixed-Self-View is formed and its natural disposition to form habitual tendencies that drive us into automatic and unquestioned patterns of behaviours.  Appreciating that co-evolving patterning is part of the natural formation of our human functioning, we also explore the importance of compassionate awareness.  What we consider to be a key leadership capacity for bringing more innovative solutions to the complexity of the leadership challenges that are occurring in the world.  In addition, recognising the complexities and uncertain nature of change, creates inherent not-knowing and ambiguity in organisations, teams and individuals.

The Self in a VUCA World

In our globally interconnected VUCA world the only certainty is uncertainty.  The Buddhist notion of impermanence correlated by the findings of the complexity sciences of Complex Adaptive Systems (Kauffman 1995), Chaos Theory (Lewin 1992, Waldrop 1994, Gleick 1988) and Complexity Theory (Gell-Mann 1995, Holland 1995), illustrate that our universe is in constant processes of transition.   Organisations are increasingly reliant upon a dense web of co-evolving processes of relationships to deliver their products and services, expanding beyond their workforces into relationships with strategic partners, customers and suppliers to local communities and the natural environment.

Leaders are finding themselves caught in paradoxical tensions.  Trying to work with the natural evolutionary processes of uncertainty whilst simultaneously, trying to hold the needs and expectations for certainty from a multitude of different requirements, and stakeholder perspectives.  For example, changes in leadership, strategy, operational structures, functional processes and values.  In addition, changes from outside of their known boundaries, such as market competitors, new legislation, changing consumer attitudes and environmental challenges.

In short there is increasing complexity where leaders can no longer just focus on separate parts, operating as single ‘ego-driven entities’.  They are required to work with interconnected patterns, having far greater awareness of themselves and others in the wider ecology of their evolving environments.  What we are finding from our work in organisations is that there is an increasing need to develop the capabilities of holding the VUCA environment in new ways.  Leaders are faced with the challenges of needing to develop new/different leadership capabilities.  For example, to be more present in the moment, working relationally with diverse perspectives, and holding ambiguity, to mitigate the propensity to unintentionally get in their own way.  This challenges leaders to shift from an individualistic Self-biased view, with a belief of the need for expert or hierarchical based practices, to a humbler more relationship focused approach.

At the centre of these complex ambiguous challenges, is the formation of a Fixed-Self-View.  In Western society instead of seeing ourselves, others and our environments as spirals of co-evolving processes of interaction and evolution, we see ourselves as fixed closed circles.  Individual entities that we have a tendency to perceive and treat as being separate from each other and the environments that we reside within.  The outcome resulting in repeatedly finding ourselves in push-pull tensions, of trying to negotiate the experiences that arise when something enters our Fixed-World-View that may or may not be in line with our individual needs and/or perceived view of reality.

Co-Evolving Processes of Interaction and Evolution

Part of the consequences of an increasingly VUCA world is that leaders are managing operational activity and constant change as co-evolving processes in their organisations.  They are both shaping and being shaped by hidden dynamics that influence their own and other’s experiences.  Over time, these various dynamics of interactions start to form into patterns of thinking, behaviour and ultimately a sense of being in the world.  Dimensions that can also be described as multiple interwoven layers of stories or conscious/unconscious habits as we engage with our different world experiences.

Leaders are finding that if they do not take the time to gain insight into the habitual patterns that enable and constrain movement within their organisations, the experience is like trying to start driving with the brakes on.  They report frustrations of what they term as “stuck changes” that generate a lot of energy and unnecessary friction that appear to go nowhere very slowly.  They can see the outcomes of the problem, and yet by looking through their usual lenses of how they view the world, they struggle to see how to break their own patterns in thinking and behaving that bring these frustrations into their day-to-day experiences.

What we are finding through our practice in organisations is that leading change in a VUCA environment involves stepping into the unknown with compassionate awareness.  Through intentions of being present and working more relationally, we can interrupt the multiple layers of invisible patterns that are built as defences against ambiguity and not-knowing.  We will show how by consciously shaping moments for joint exploration some of these patterns can be interrupted to be in service to supporting the organisation’s purpose and strategy.

Our proposition is that Leadership in a VUCA world starts with knowing the Self and understanding our patterns that lead to us towards unintentionally getting in our own way.  Being aware of how the Self is impacted by different forms of relationships and contexts is an essential leadership capability.  Given the complexity of our interconnected world, it is no longer just enough to know how our individual habits and tendencies shape what we sense, feel and see.  The Self is not just a separate fixed entity; it is continuously being formed through complex interconnected processes of relating.  Aspects, that shape how we respond and react to the world around us, and at the same time, how the world responds to us.  As Sills (2000:188) points out:

“we are interrelating and intercommunicating at many levels all the time.  These communications and interconnections, together with the complexity of the dynamics that arise from one person’s experiences or actions, influence the whole field in which that person exists”

The Co-Evolving Nature of the Self

The Buddhist notion of the Skandhas provides a useful framework for exploring the complexities of our co-evolving processes of interactions.  The Skandhas explain how our sense of Self arises in any given moment that is instantaneous and can often be out of our immediate conscious awareness.  The five Skandhas are Form, Feeling, Perception, Conditioning and Consciousness.  These work as “interactive and interdependent elements of a process” (Freemantle 2003:93).

Instead of a Fixed-Self, there is according to Freemantle “a continuous flow of moments of consciousness” and the Skandhas point to how we create patterns in the flow.  By bringing any one element of the Skandhas into awareness, we are able to change the whole co-arising process and our consciousness of the moment.


The first Skandha is Form.  This refers to anything that can be perceived by our senses.  Sight, smell, touch, hearing and taste.  Our sense of our form reinforces our fundamental sense of ourselves existing separately in the world.  In general, we tend not to be aware of the subtler interconnections and interrelating communications that take place at an invisible level, as a field of relationship.  We tend to experience ourselves as separate bodies, and see anything as external from us as objects, that we inevitably invest with meaning as separate and not me and as a result, our splitting of experience starts.  As Freemantle (2003:97) puts it:

“We experience ourselves as separate because of the split between the senses and their objects.  We think we are real and solid because we have bodies, and we think the world is real and solid because of the evidence of our senses.”

In a leadership context form shows up as the experiences of the internal and external brand.  It relates to the touch, shape and physical manifestation of the organisation and how it works.  Form informs our experience and creates a frequency in the organisation and sense of connection through the use of structures, working practices, and organisational logos.


The second Skandha is Feeling.  This refers to our immediate response to our impressions of form, both physical and emotional.  Instinctive sensations arise as feelings that can be positive, negative or neutral.  These show up as inner felt senses of a pull towards, contract away from or neutral responses.  These can correspond with emotional sensations of happiness, sadness or indifference.  Feeling responses may not always be fully experienced as intense emotions they can also operate, as a backdrop to our thoughts, actions, likes and dislikes.  Organisations, functions, teams and leaders have habitual ways of expressing feelings, and ways of disagreeing.  Feeling for instance can create the sense of an organisation as an exciting place to work, or that it is chaotic and overwhelming where nothing is ever good enough.


The third Skandha Perception refers to our knowing which can also be termed as cognition or recognition.  As we experience something new there is a moment of ambiguity whilst our mind identifies the forms and relates them to past labels, giving the form and feelings a name.  This creates a tendency to see aspects that we have known in the past and how our histories shape what we see, in the present.  This whole process makes it possible to label and express our experiences transforming them into thoughts and words.  In an organisational context, leaders and their teams will habitually see some aspects of an experience and overlook others.  In the same way we can all have the tendencies to see situations with old eyes and not allow ourselves to be open to the new or different.


The fourth Skandha of Conditioning relates to our values, judgements and historical beliefs about the world, that inform our behaviours and what we predict, will happen in the future.  Conditioning influences our intentions and what we give attention to moment-by-moment.  In a leadership context conditioning manifests as the habits and tendencies whereby we see what we expect to see. This can result in leaders relying on the ways of behaving that have made them successful in the past rather than what is needed in the now.  They apply success recipes from the past and fail to act differently in the moment, for example, like missing the new industry requirements and emerging market trends.


The fifth Skandha Consciousness is a dynamic process that coordinates how we are seeing a situation, how we know we are knowing, how we are experiencing the inputs from our senses and what we are feeling in any moment.  In a leadership context consciousness refers to the leader’s sense of this is who I am and how I know.  This process happens in a fleeting moment-by-moment basis.  Generating both the leader’s sense of continuity, and creating their ability to witness in the moment.  By holding a creative consciousness leaders are able to intentionally hold a creative space for the new and different to arise.

As organisations are continuously changing leaders have less positional power and increasingly have to rely on more relational ways of working and influencing others.  This comes about by being more present in the moment.  It is a disciplined practice to bring our consciousness to the present rather than act automatically and perpetuate more of the same.

The importance and relevance of the Skandhas for working in organisations is that they provide insight into how we can automatically see more of the same and generate self– reinforcing patterns.  They explain how our natural unconscious beliefs influence our attention and how we reject experiences that do not fit what we want to see.  The good news is that whilst they explain how we recreate ourselves from moment-to-moment, they also point to how we can interrupt individual and collective patterning in any given moment.  As we bring compassionate awareness to the formation of the Self, and our view of others, we can develop new insights.  We become less attached to our stories and observe our feelings without reacting to them.  Working with awareness of the Skandhas in the moment, leaders can learn to hold creative space differently and generate more positive moments for change to occur.  Bringing compassion to individuals who can be perceived and labelled as being resistant to change and start to see how they and others may be unintentionally getting in their own way.

Ambiguity and the Defended Self

The Skandhas help us to see how as we work with awareness in the moment new insight can emerge.  Leaders are able to work with their own arising processes in the Skandhas and the co-arising processes in others.  Their internal and external worlds create processes of inter-being with one another.  This inevitably in a VUCA world, creates considerable ambiguity and defensive patterns of behaviour.  Ambiguity is both within and around us.  As Sills (2009:61) points out:

“all systems are inherently split and defensive in nature.  The more intense the ambiguity experienced, the more intensely split and defended the self-system becomes”.

Sills (2009:65) proposes that the Self is not fixed and can more helpfully be understood by viewing three aspects of the self as the ‘Central-Self, Needy-Self and Rejecting-Self’.  In day-to-day life these different aspects can become hidden from our conscious awareness.  They are revealed when circumstances impact the needs of the Central-Self.  We may not always be aware of what drives our behaviour or responses to others, if/when our different constructs of Self are outside of our conscious awareness.

The Central-Self holds the witnessing consciousness operating like a governance body that holds our ethics, values and our sense of what is right for us and/or is right in the world.  In the context of organisations, we have found that leaders, who can work from a sense of their Central-Self with a clear embodied knowing of the purpose and values of the organisation, are able to successfully navigate the complexities and competing tensions that arise in their organisations.

Our Needy-Self orientates to people or things that will get our needs met.  The Needy-Self is driven by attachment, a desire for fulfilment that moves us towards something in the hope of need fulfilment.  In an organisational context, one of the edges that leaders frequently come up against is competing needs of the organisation, workforce, regulators and markets including their own.  Feeling themselves caught in a web of what can appear to be paradoxical and/or unrealistic hopes, desires and aspirations.  The balancing act for leaders is how to find a pathway through the different defensive responses when the different espoused needs are not being met.

The Rejecting-Self defends the Central-Self when needs, expectations and ideals of others and or the self are not met.  The psychoanalyst, Horney (1950) offers a perspective on rejecting strategies.  Proposing that under the influence of challenging and anxiety provoking situations, people adopt certain strategies and patterns of behaviour that tend to fall within three categories:

  • Move Against – to control, dominate and intimidate others
  • Move Towards – to build protection to minimise the threat of criticism from others
  • Move Away – to avoid others

The purpose of these strategies is to mitigate risk and achieve psychological and/or physical safety.  A concept, that also appears to correlate with Levine’s (1997: 134) concept of “fight (move against), freeze (move towards), flight responses (move away)”.  The Neuroscientific view of Hanson, et al (2009) and Siegel (2010), is that due to the way we have evolved as humans, our physical and mental systems are continuously orientating around reducing threat.  Trying to create stability, moving towards opportunities and avoid danger.  As Hanson (2009: 47 – 48) suggests, when the systems within our body, mind and relationships become unstable, our brains produce uncomfortable signals of threat.  Our nervous systems trigger increased levels of cortisol which signal to our bodies and brain that we are in danger.  What Levine (1997:134) terms as our “autonomic nervous system’s perceived response to threat, whether it is internal, external, imagined or real”.  Since everything keeps changing these threat signals keep coming.

Leaders can often have their own defences to navigate, as well as the defensive strategies of others.  When driven by overwhelm and/or the fear and anxiety of not-knowing how to hold multifaceted complexities, we have experienced leaders resorting to, the use of hierarchy and/or controlling and intimidating behaviours.  The application of rigid structures and behaviours can create additional unnecessary fear and anxiety that reduces trust, feelings of safety and exacerbates defensive patterning.  The result is greater noise in the system, passive and/or active friction that gets in the way of being able to hold and work with creative tension that supports transformative change.

The key to working with these challenges is through presence and relationship.  The starting point is the loosening of the defensive Fixed-Self and coming into the embodied experience of the Central-Self.  The Central-Self being the route source of compassion.  As leaders loosen their sense of separation and start to work compassionately, they can be with the co-arising experiences within themselves and others.  They have the capacity to work with awareness of their defences and the defensive behaviours of others.  This calls on leaders to be open about their concerns to themselves and others, to encourage dialogue, actively listen to others and create shared understanding, when competing tensions of needs and or rejecting strategies begin to surface.  By creating the foundations of relational safety, they can step collectively into the uncertainty and work with the different dimensions of the unknown.

Working with Loosening the Self-View in Organisations

Our aim up until this point has been to try to shine light on the different elements that contribute to how our Fixed-Self is formed.  In this section, our intention is to share some of our practices for working with these concepts.  Particularly with how we have supported leaders to explore how they can unintentionally get in their own way through a defensive Fixed-Self.  We look at how leaders have developed practices to support themselves and others work to work with the multifaceted complexities of organisational change.

Working with the Skandhas 

The physical body as the seat of the Skandhas gives us access to all that is co-arising in the Self at any moment.  We can work with an embodied focus of awareness on any one of the Skandhas, to shift how we are, what we sense and what we see.  Having said this, in practice a starting place for our work is often with embodied knowing and form.  Tending to form, and how people are in the moment, creates the conditions for new ways of seeing, thinking, feeling and storying.  Whilst working with leaders in organisations, one of our aims is to facilitate the creation of new forms and working practices.  Supporting leaders to draw attention to their felt sense in any given moment, and to be grounded as they step into the unknown.  As leaders work in more centred ways, they are also able to hold the space for the not-knowing of others.

Bringing people into, more creative contact with one another, allows for the freeing up of attachment to historical meaning making, facilitating the creation of new collective beliefs.  The leaders are able to believe in the possibility space and release the potential of others.  One of the intended outcomes of our practice is the creation of a new consciousness.  A new/ different sense of who we are and what we are becoming, at the self, team and organisation levels.  A mutually reinforcing loop between the new forms of working, the arising consciousness and emerging supportive beliefs in new ways of working.  People gain confidence in the emerging new because they can see, feel and trust glimpses of the future possibility.

One of the key principles in our practice is that effective change requires new actions, to bring about new thoughts.  We actively encourage leaders and teams to act into the unknown as an emerging process of changing.  In practice this makes experimenting and learning together essential.  Another key principle is bringing compassionate awareness to support the process of interrupting patterning.  This creates a safe enough context for the challenge of experimenting and testing out the new.   Holding the emerging agenda and loosening the Fixed-Self unlocks the defences towards the change as we surrender our desire to fix reality ‘in here and out there’.  Only through the paradox of creating both safe enough and yet challenging conditions, can we go beyond the known boundaries of operational leadership, are we able be to go with the arising moment and create a real shift in consciousness and being.

Working with New Forms of Relating and Embodied Knowing

In organisations we encounter various aspects of forms, such as our habitual ways of working, our familiar room layouts, ways of holding meetings, forms of relating, policies and procedures, use of brand logos, buildings and products.  For example, people focusing on out dated agendas because there is no integrated strategy, overinvesting in long hours without being more productive.  Spending their days in back-to-back meetings, deferring to leaders and looking to them as experts to supply the right answers, as opposed to working with questions.  In response to meeting expected needs, leaders finding themselves acting into unconscious dynamics of becoming more like parents, feeling overly accountable for driving and leading the agenda.  We see room layouts where people are oriented towards talking to PowerPoint slides rather than dialogue, constraining creative conditions for movement and experimentation.

The physical locations and seating layouts can often work against connection and joined up spaces for creativity.  Meetings become overly bureaucratic, filled with many agenda items that reinforce transactional ways of working wasting time and resources.

Here are some examples of what working in this way looks like in practice.  Whilst working with over 100 clinical leaders in a large NHS trust, we heard many stories of the NHS in crisis, with rigid bureaucratic procedures, and their perceptions of change as a linear technical process.  They were all highly committed to finding solutions.  At the same time while staying within the known and familiar ways of seeing, feeling, thinking and behaving they were in many ways unintentionally getting in their own ways of leading change, by being loyal to the habits and patterns of what was and what traditionally had been.  Using a series of coaching cohorts with strategic leadership teams, we supported the leaders to explore embodied unconscious cognitive patterning.  For example, through asking questions such as “What is helpful?” and “What happens when you..?” as strategies for interrupting analytical and diagnostic thinking in this highly intelligent community.  As a result, the leaders started to talk in a more relational way about the dynamics between functions, themselves and government bodies.  They began to seek how they could have different types of conversations, with their various stakeholders.  One of their outcomes was to begin to hold different types of creative meetings with new and more diverse people, including patients.

We worked with leaders of a large R&D division of global corporation in the Agro-chemical industry that had a combined workforce of 20,000.  The dilemma was in trying to implement a new purpose and strategy for the whole organisation, the R&D division experienced serious operational and implementation challenges that resulted in low morale and high turnover.  Leaders were concerned that their meetings were overly rigid, bureaucratic and crammed with too many agenda items and that these ways of working were constraining innovation.  They recognised that their habitual forms of meetings created a lack of disinterest and disengagement that wasted time and failed to add value.  They found themselves caught in a state of what they termed as “stuckness” recognising that “this is how it’s always been and predicted that this is how it will be in the future”.  We worked co-creatively with leaders to redesign key meetings for creative teams so that they could focus on key strategic projects to shape new ways of working.  Shifting Form created a new context for working more relationally, creating a space for new and different feelings, meaning making and conditioning to occur.

The new conversations and different types of creative meetings, as distinct from operational meetings, created a felt experience of newness, and supported the conditions for intuition to be enhanced and valued.  A more embodied knowing emerged through the collective wisdom of the team as opposed to the analytical view of the individual expert.  R&D timescales were dramatically improved in line with the strategic intention and purpose work.  Cultural surveys reported higher trust and greater mutuality between leaders, the workforce and the whole value chain of partners, suppliers and local communities.

Holding Spaciousness

Working in a large Financial Services institution, we supported leaders of a global function of 10,000 people, with the process of designing and implementing a new operating model in response to market challenges and new regulatory requirements.  Their key challenge was that despite six months of effort they were failing to deliver on a transformation agenda, that required a new operational structure, different values, ways of relating, and new processes.  Despite significant investment in resources to implement the change, they struggled to convert their espoused strategies into practice.  A cultural survey revealed that they were entangled in historical bureaucratic ways of working and fear driven political behaviours that challenged their relationships with each other, colleagues and clients.  Through working live in the moment, alongside leaders with their day-to-day operational challenges, we supported them to draw awareness to patterns of thinking behaviour and functioning.  Patterns that highlighted how by repeating familiar ways of working and relating they were unknowingly stagnating and stalling their change agenda.

One of their key challenges was to learn how to recognise that there would inevitably be polarised felt senses around new values, new ways of working, different structures and processes.  We actively encouraged leaders to work with compassionate awareness for the practical day-to-day implications of seemingly political responses that were derived from fear of the unknown.  We worked with awareness of form to create spaciousness, supporting leaders to clearly articulate the purpose and intent of the new future, and actively engage their workforce as part of the process.  The leaders returned authority for the transformation process to their people.  Seeking volunteers to work on different strategic transformation projects, to move with where they had interest and energy.  The practice of encouraging the workforce to participate in the transition journey from the old to the emerging new, created space and time that over a period of five months facilitated mutual dialogue, trust and respect.  Leaders could create time and space to hear and understand the fears and anxieties and concerns of those who they had originally perceived to be resistant to the changes.  As a consequence new energy, hope and excitement about the potential of the future began to emerge as different conversations; new types of relationships and partnerships were built with the leaders, their workforce, colleagues and clients.

Trusting the Felt Sense

In the examples above, we encouraged leaders to work with different ways of knowing such as physical sensations, imagery, metaphor and feelings.  This enabled them both to access and trust their felt sense, which they began to recognise as operating like a background operating system.  They began to recognise that they may have a felt sense of control or lack of control of an issue, and that this could be unconsciously guiding whether they saw a problem, or were able to be open with their teams and enable themselves to be surprised by something new.  They could trust expressions such as gut feelings and or share metaphor and express ideas in ways that resonated with others, creating a hum of excitement about the unknown future.

Shifting Meaning Making  

In working with the Skandhas we have discovered that the intelligence in organisations tends to be biased towards cognition, hence our focus is to work with form and felt sense, to unlock new and different ways of thinking and relating.  We also recognise the power of the cognitive and seek to create both formal and informal mechanisms such as specialist project teams, new room layouts that encourage new conversations for sharing different perceptions and world-views.  A typical change trap we have witnessed is that leaders can over emphasise the benefits of the future, making the past feel wrong in some way.  A core belief in our work is that creating new meaning includes recognising what is already working well in service of the strategic change agenda.  Taking deliberate actions to preserve and incorporate those aspects into the new emerging agenda as opposed to keep layering in the new.  Leaders who acknowledged the importance of the past were surprised how they could create space for the habitual perceptions to be valued as part of the process of being open to and preparing for change.

Towards a New Way of Working  

Our experience is showing us that the increasing levels of complexity and uncertainty are not going to go away, and the heroic leader driving the agenda with all the answers is no longer viable or sustainable.  People may wish for certainty, and will seek to reduce ambiguity, and yet, the costs of not working differently are enormous as the operational activities and change projects increasingly get stuck.  New leadership capabilities and new skills for working in the moment are essential if we are to create more appreciative, open ways to look at and interrupt patterns with compassionate awareness.  Through compassionate awareness in the moment, and by designing the conditions and processes for mutuality and creative contact, leaders can enable a more embodied way of knowing to see the emerging patterns that do not fit their conditioned world-view.  As they deepen their capacity to hold more ambiguity and uncertainty in relationship with others they can create more space for the new.

Loosening the Fixed-Self creates the conditions for the generation of fresh insight into patterned perceptions and tired stories.  It brings about the possibilities for fresh conversations and working with a diversity of perspectives and multiple intelligences to bring in new ways of seeing and thinking.  Breaking through the patterned Fixed-Self allows leaders to be surprised and to create the conditions for others to surprise themselves.  Suspending judgement and focused intention to operate out of the Central-Self combined with new forms of working support the conditions for a more resonant way of leading change in a VUCA world.

At the heart of this perspective is a notion of the inherent wellbeing and creative potential that exists in the moment, which is simply obscured by our fixed patterns of making sense of the world.  What we have attempted to highlight in this paper is that there are a range of leadership skills that can be developed around the Skandhas to create different felt sense experiences and new ways of working.  As organisations become increasingly fragmented with competing loyalties and tensions we do not underestimate the challenges of asking leaders to loosen their Self-View and to develop the practice of being more present in the moment.  By working with the liberating potential of bringing awareness to any aspect of the Skandhas, we have shown how they can unlock the power in the present moment.  It is a disciplined practice that requires compassion, as we inevitably fall back in to old patterned defences.  We have shown how different way of working and new forms can help to support leaders to release more of the potential of themselves and others.  In conclusion, whilst developing this new leadership practice is going to be challenging, in today’s complex and ambiguous world, we also believe it is no longer an option to work in the old patterns of the more Self-centred, ego based world of leadership and that collaboration, deeper listening and appreciation are the way forward.

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Copyright © Catherine Hayes & Sue Ingham 2017. All rights reserved Printer Friendly PDF


Catherine Hayes is an Organisation Transition and Transformation specialist. She supports leaders and their organisations to navigate and work with complex transition challenges to deliver tangible results. Combing 30 years of practice with 20 years of applied research, organisational, clinical psychology and Buddhist philosophy, she has created change processes and diagnostic analytics and tools that support insight into the complexities and functioning of organisations. Including the development of a transition leadership approach that supports leaders and their workforces to acquire transition capabilities, whilst implementing their transformation agendas. Catherine is also the creator and facilitator of the practitioner Exec MBA Transition Leadership Series at CASS Business School.

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